Game Music

Family Classics: pia-com I – PianoXComputer Game Review

March 8, 2010 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Family Classics: pia-com I – PianoXComputer Game Reviewon Twitter

You know what my favorite instrument is? Acoustic guitar. But my other favorite instrument is piano and that’s why we’re here today. Right before Christmas times came rollin’ in, Dog Ear Records released a little treat by the name pia-com I – PianoXComputer. The premise was simple, a collection of Famicom classics arranged on piano by Keita Egusa, who’s piano skills have been showcased in videogames before. I’m always eager to hear more piano albums and quickly became excited as the news came in on this album.

Piano arrangement albums aren’t exactly a new idea when it comes to videogame music, but it seems there’s always a bit more prestige to them, being classical and all. It might be the elegance of the piano, or the over reliance on metal and rock in the Western arrangement communities, but whenever a piano album comes out, it seems fans are just a tad more excited than usual.

So is this album worth getting excited for? Find out as we take a look!

If you judge this CD by its cover and tracklist, you may either be pleasantly surprised or extremely puzzled. The overall presentation goes for a pseudo 8-bit look with sharp colors and a nice piano/Famicom mashup in its signature colors. I believe everyone reading this knows the difference, but just quickly in case you don’t, Famicom is the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, with some differences between them. Funny though, because for me this CD brought back more memories of playing the MSX than it did playing the NES! The tracklist consists of 7 games, Elevator Action, Yie-Ar Kung Fu, Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin, Salamander, Final Fantasy II, Mappy and for many the most exciting inclusion, Mother (Earthbound). I played Yie-Ar Kung Fu, Mappy and Salamander a lot as a child, but as noted, on the MSX.

The CD starts with a great jazz piano arrangement of Elevator Action. The game itself was one of Taito’s most famous games during the 80s, and the whole game is based around elevators. Basically you play as a spy who jumps around the building and avoids bad guys, and the music is well known to Japanese gamers being done in a style very similar to elevator music. The arrangement starts out slow enough with finger snapping and a few notes played on a piano before setting into the familiar tones of the Elevator Action melody. The song changes tempo a lot of times and goes through the little material that was present in the little arcade game. The arrangement is cheerful enough and not bad at all, but I do feel at the ending dragged on and could have been cut short a little earlier, but nonetheless a good track and a great opening.

The next track is from the game I grew up playing the most out of the titles on this CD, Yie-Ar Kung Fu! Man, playing this game on the MSX with my friend provided some of the most intense gaming sessions I can remember as the game was brutally hard and every fighter had some kind of annoying attack that would always hit you. It’s funny then that the song kinda reflects my inner emotions on this game because it starts off really calm and nice playing the Asian-style theme song all Yie-Ar Kung Fu fans are familiar with. It builds up steadily, first being pretty straightforward, normally paced, before becoming more intense, faster and angry as you go onto the harder fights, sweating, bleeding, crying, before you break down dead, only to give it another shot and become victorious. This track brings back memories of me screaming that that poor machine. I never in a million years thought I would hear such a well done Yie-Ar Kung Fu arrangement that so fittingly tells the game’s story through music. Best track on the CD.

That’s not to say the rest are by any means bad. Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin ~ Okhotsk ni Kiyu (Hokkaido Murders ~The Disappearance of Ohotsuku~) is a text-based Famicom game that was never released outside Japan and hasn’t received a fan translation, and is the sequel to the popular PORTOPIA Serial Murder Case by Yuji Horii, who would later go on to create the Dragon Quest series. This arrangement is of the title screen and is quite amazing in its own right. The song is very emotional and striking, fitting of a murder case scenario as the game puts you in, and never strays away from that. Very beautiful and mysterious, it showcases that Egusa has a very good idea how to properly reflect the source material in his arrangements. It might be a bit slow for some however, as it never really changes pace, but piano aficionados will love it from start to finish.

If that last track bored you, however, the next one will definitively lift your spirits as it’s Salamander time. The world famous and dearly loved schmup from Konami never disappoints, and this is no exception. Most US gamers will know this song from Life Force, the renamed Salamander released on the NES, but anyway, the arrangement is pretty complex and changes tempo rapidly, and is filled with lots of harmonies. It’s a really fun piece, and feels very engaging like its source, but I don’t think it packs the same punch as Yie-Ar Kung Fu. It’s not quite as epic. Next up, one of the best songs from the entire Final Fantasy series, “Main Theme” for Final Fantasy II. The game and its music often gets forgotten as the game itself wasn’t exactly the series’ highlight, but the “Main Theme” is so incredibly beautiful, I always wished there was more attention placed on it. Thankfully Egusa seems to have agreed and does a fantastic job. He expands a bit upon the original melody and adds some nice touches that really fill out the song and makes it even more striking.

Mappy is next, the Namco arcade action game featuring Mappy the police mouse as he runs from cats and retrieves stolen items in a big house. This song has a ragtime feel to it, like watching the old Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Fred Astaire movies, which my father loves and forced me to watch as a child. Luckily I loved it too. The song is quite simple with a short looping melody, but Egusa has a lot of fun with this one and surprisingly manages to extend it to 4 minutes in length. The source material lends itself so well to this kind of arrangement, so I’m sure he had a ton of ideas soaring in his mind when he got to work on this one. The last track is probably the fan favorite of the bunch, Mother’s “Snowman.” I probably don’t even have to mention it, but Mother is the Japanese title for Earthbound, and was the first in the series, with Earthbound being originally Mother 2 in Japan. It doesn’t matter much which version this is based on as the song appears in all Mother games. Again, this one is very emotionally driven, and has a perfect sense of coldness to it, feeling like a winter track. At the end, “Eight Melodies” makes an appearance, which gave me goosebumps as it always does. This song made quite an impact on me, and I felt moved by it, so it definitely played the chords of my heart (get it? eh? eeeeh?).

pia-com I / Piano x Computer Game is really solid, even incredible at times, and is one of the best CDs I purchased in recent times. The short tracklist might make you ask if it’s worth the price, but as a pure piano CD, it’s short length only makes the album stronger, as it never feels tacked on, and always ends on a good note. If you’re a piano fan, this CD is a must, even if game music is not for you. Incredible value.

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